Aug 2, 2016
The Brooklynite’s Guide To Nashville
Our July/August print issue is the Travel issue, and so for the sake of “work” I found myself in Nashville to report on the city’s music scene. Well, ostensibly it was for work; really, spending some time in Nashville has been a dream of mine for years. The chance to spend almost a full week exploring all the city had to offer–not just in the way of music, but also in food, fashion, culture and more–seemed like a dream come true. I’m a country music aficionado but it was much more than that, the city’s rich history and thriving arts scene has a magnetic pull–and not just on me. About 70 people a day are moving to Nashville, and the projected growth for the city’s population continues to skyrocket.
Even if you aren’t planning to move there, for New Yorkers, Nashville is an obvious tourist destination: The flight is short and cheap, and the allure of southern hospitality and friendliness is real after growing accustomed to brusque New York. In fact, the cities share a similar life force. While I was down in the “Athens of The South” as they call it, I realized that Nashville and Brooklyn really aren’t that different. I mean, you can probably make this case for any city in the US if you try hard enough, but stay with me here while I draw some parallels.
Both Nashville and New York have their own mythology and historical significance as cultural epicenters, New York in the Northeast and Nashville in the south. Artistic communities thrive in both places because young people from their respective regions flock to each metropolitan center in an effort make something of themselves, to seek out a more liberal and progressive way of life, and to escape their small town roots. Music is woven into the fabric of both cities, and that unrelenting desire to work toward a dream, no matter how lofty.
Yet, both cities manage to splinter off into their own little little neighborhoods and sections, too, and sometimes the communities fostered in these sub communities are just as strong and supportive as the ones found in a small little town. The push and pull between huge cultural epicenter and compelling, supportive community is the binding feature for both New York and Nashville; they are places to escape the mundane without losing connection to a living, breathing neighborhood. For visitors from Brooklyn who find themselves pulled to Nashville’s growing community, here are some of the places I think help make the city what it is, and that will probably feel most familiar and meaningful to East Coast out-of-towners.
Where To Eat
Best In Category: Peg Leg Porker
903 Gleaves Street
Although I didn’t try Carey Bringle’s mindblowing grub until the very last day of my trip, it immediately skyrocketed to the top of my food list. How on earth had I never had BBQ Nachos ($9.95) before this spring? This dish was the highlight of Bringle’s inventive, campy menu–one that also includes things like Kool Aid Pickles ($4), Memphis Sushi (a sausage cheese platter served with Saltines: $8.95), and the best damn Memphis-style dry ribs I have ever tasted ($12.95 for half a rack + two sides). I’m not alone in that distinction either, Eater just named Peg Leg Porker the best dry ribs in the entire nation. As if all that wasn’t enough, the name of Bringle’s restaurant is a tongue-in-cheek joke about his eventual, hard-earned victory over the aggressive bone cancer Osteogenic Sarcoma. While many would succumb to bitterness after a battle like that, he worked the loss of his right leg into a defining part of his new business aesthetic–a move that reveals the immense amount of heart and grit that fuels this place. Turning a loss into a gain is exactly the kind of resilient spirit that defines the South. Come for the definitive pulled pork nachos, stay for the life-affirming story of the man behind them.
210 Almond Street
For those Brooklynites seeking a refined dining experience, Nashville offers plenty of fine dining establishments. One of the most central and delicious places I ate during my stay was The Farm House, a restaurant that’s only a couple blocks from downtown Nashville. Chef and owner Trey Cioccia is devoted to the farm-to-table ethos, incorporating some items from his own garden out at East Nashville’s Riverwood Mansion, and relying on local farmers throughout the region for the bulk of his menu. True to its name, the restaurant boasts a gorgeous, rustic farm house style that is at once elegant and welcoming. A “Pastrami Poptart” ($15) with mustard cabbage, shallot jam, and goat cheese was an astonishingly upscale take on the eternal comfort of a microwave classic, and the Shrimp Boil ($27) complete with corn, fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, Kolbasz sausage, and grits was like manna from heaven for a famished traveler craving a downhome dish. The extensive bourbon list and inventive, fresh cocktails ensure that any meal will be accompanied by many delicious libations.
2901 12th Avenue South
Burger Up just happens to be the first place I ate when I got to Nashville, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
The restaurant was founded back in 2010 and now boasts two locations–one in the quickly emerging neighborhood of East Nashville and one in the culinary haven of 12 South–and both locations proudly source all of the meat used in their burgers from Triple L Ranch in Franklin, Tennessee. They offer plenty of traditional burger fixings, and some off-the-beaten path options like lamb, salmon, bison, and a quinoa and black bean rendition, for well under $15 with fries on the side. Additionally, they also offer tasty southern snacks like pimento cheese and toasted bread ($8) or fried pickle chips ($6), plus a full beer/wine list and bar.
2706 12th Avenue South
There is no better place in the nation to get barbecue than in the south. Sorry to every other region sputtering their weak arguments right now, it’s just the fact of the matter. Another 12 South staple succinctly named Edley’s BBQ–who are so popular they also have two other locations in the city–did a great job of proving this fact to nonbelievers early on with a slew of grilled and smoked options and classic southern sides. The best option to taste as much of their delicious menu as possible is to order something from their platter series that feature pork, brisket, chicken, ribs etc with two sides (may I recommend the mac-n-cheese and the cole slaw), amd corn bread and pickles. You get all that for around $10 depending on the meat selection, and while you’re there also grab an order of the White Barbecue Wings ($9) for an appetizer. I don’t know how they are made, but I know they are tasty. Don’t forget to order their boozy milkshake the Bushwacker ($8) to wash everything down.
1922 Adelicia Street
Le Sel is an elegant, chic restaurant in midtown Nashville that offered better service than I have received in most New York restaurants and offered up cocktails that would’ve pleased even the most pretentious Williamsburg mixologist. Seriously, this level of fine dining is hard to pull off, especially in a city that is devoted to down home fried snacks and greasy barbecue (no shade to either of those wonderful things), but Le Sel made it seem effortless. Chef Brian Lea marries French delicacy with classic American dishes that feature small southern twists, like the Beets ($10) served with peaches alongside more standard inclusions like chevre and hazelnut, or the Gougèes cheese puff, with horseradish sidled up next to crème fraiche and ham. My favorite dish was a stunning Halibut entree ($28) with Parisienne gnocchi, zucchini, soubise, and tarragon. If I had the power to bestow Michelin stars, I would give this place one.
2316 12th Avenue South
I try not to play favorites, because I really was blown away by all the food in Nashville, but Josephine had one dish that surpassed pretty much everything else I tried there: Fried Chicken Skins.
This pile of delicious, spicy goodness is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Period. The menu at Josephine was also progressive in other interesting ways, using the Pennsylvania concoction scrapple (pork trimmings and scraps, cornmeal and flour) and preparing it in the Nashville “hot chicken” style ($12). For main dishes, the Dumplings ($21) with rabbit, mushroom, peas, grilled onion, spring herbs further reveal their aim to elevate basic dishes to a higher level. Don’t sleep on their extensive wine list either.
1000 Main St
If there’s one thing Brooklyn is known for, it’s brunch, and Nashville isn’t far behind on that front. Ask anyone around town and they’ll tell you the best place for brunch is Marche Artisan Foods, so I headed out to the East Nashville spot on the weekend to investigate. There was about a 25 minute wait, and there’s no bar there so I had to hang out in the lobby area while I waited, but with something to read it wasn’t too awkward. I downed a Bloody Mary and perused the latest copy of Nashville Scene (shoutout Steve Haruch, a former editor there who gave me lots of tips during my stay), and soon I was seated alone by the window to enjoy what would be one of my favorite brunches outside of Brooklyn.
I ordered the Strata ($11), a casserole-like fried egg dish with chicken sausage, goat cheese and a green salad, along with a Lavender with Love tea, a blend of lavender, chamomile, jasmine, rosemary, elderflower courtesy of High Garden Teas in East Nashville. Both were warm, flavorful and comforting–just what brunch in a strange city (or even a familiar one) should be.
Where To Drink
Best in Category: Embers Ski Lodge
2410 12th Avenue South
The highest compliment I can give Embers Ski Lodge is that it reminded me of a little Red Hook bar called Bait and Tackle–the level of camp and tongue-in-cheek celebration of an out of season theme was exactly on par. Embers Ski Lodge is decorated like a classic ’80s ski lodge, and was inspired by the feeling of returning to home, hearth, and warmth after a long day on the mountain. I’ve only gone skiing once–shouts out to my ex-boyfriend for teaching me–and even one weekend out on the slopes was enough to convey to me how inviting shelter looks after snowy exhaustion. Embers captures that welcoming feeling perfectly, and manages to capture plenty of flourishes from gastropubs and ski lodges in the Pacific Northwest, where I was born and raised. The bar is run by Lars Kopperud and Mike Dolan, who own a pizzeria in 12 South called Mafiaozas, and have been an integral force in the neighborhood for close to a decade and a half. Along with a full food menu, the cocktail menu was designed by Gary Hayward, and they also provide beer and wine, one of the largest whiskey selections in Nashville, and friend-making shot specials. Most of all, this is a bar you come to drink at for the playful atmosphere–and spots like that are precious and rare.
2318 12th Avenue South
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the Nashville sunshine and knock back a couple beers, there is no better spot than the 12South Taproom. It’s been serving the community for the last decade, located on the thriving thoroughfare of 12th Avenue South through the emerging–or, arguably, emerged–neighborhood. The Taproom offers a laidback atmosphere with plenty of sophisticated brew options, and it’s a great place to sit outside, too, if you’re visiting the city in the early spring or summer–right after the winter has receded and before the need for AC becomes crucial. I love microbrew and unique beer lists, and this place is obviously awesome for that crowd, but can I also take a moment to recommend their amazing queso?? Add the sausage, just do it. Thank me later.
2506 12th Avenue South
You may have noticed a lot of these restaurants and bars are in 12 South, and that’s because it is absolutely the best neighborhood for food in the city. If you’re a foodie/cocktail connoisseur–amateur or professional–just head to that strip to eat and drink your way through the city. Regardless, make sure Urban Grub is somewhere on that list, whether it be for food or for drink. I included it in the drink section, because it really had a great party atmosphere when we were there, and because another table sent ours a round of champagne! (Southern hospitality, seriously.) Anyway, don’t be fooled by me putting it down here, they have grub in the name and also serve an extensive menu that’s very seafood focused, includes plenty of charcuterie options, and also features classics like Double Cut Pork Chops ($28), Shrimp & Grits ($26), and Billy’s Hot Chicken Tacos ($14.5). You will not go hungry here. But if you are here to drink, there’s a whole variety of custom-crafted cocktails, a wine list with detailed tasting notes, and my personal favorite: large format cocktails. My advice? Grab a huge frozen margarita and settle in–you’re in the south now, sweetie.
2509 12th Avenue South
Aside from its first and foremost accolades–that it’s the personal favorite coffee shop of Taylor Swift (may she rest in peace)–Frothy Monkey has expanded well beyond their initial venture in 12 South and become a presence throughout the city and Tennessee at large. Frothy Monkey is so much more than just a coffee shop–they serve coffee, a full breakfast/brunch, lunch and dinner menu, a bakery, beer and wine, and even cocktails in their downtown Nashville location. With a location in Franklin, Tennessee and one in Chattanooga on the horizon, it really wouldn’t be that surprising to find out a Frothy Monkey was opening up in Bushwick. And you know what? I would definitely go there. They also roast their own beans, which are best on display in the hand-brewed Kalita Wave coffee for one. Even a Pacific Northwest/Brooklyn coffee snob like me was beyond satisfied.
Where To Learn About Music History
Best In Category: The Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum
222 5th Avenue South
Even if you’re not a country music super fan like me, visiting the world’s most comprehensive source of ephemera and knowledge on the subject is still a must. There is no better place to trace the lineage of folk, bluegrass, soul, Americana, early R&B, and the number of ways these early singers and musicians cross-pollinated and inspired one another. I recommend spending as much time as possible in the Sun Records section learning about Sam Phillips and his label’s fledgling success. From there, you will have the appropriate groundwork to see how else early country and soul sounds were shaped and developed. The museum exhibits rightfully do not turn a blind eye to the racism and appropriation that sadly informed much of this early history, attempting to force those of us living know to reckon with that past and giving credit to the African American pioneers who were so often behind-the-scenes or kept out of the limelight. It is a hard, ugly and necessary history lesson for any music lover to learn, acknowledge and vow to educate others about. When I visited Nashville, they were also displaying a retrospective on Dylan and Cash–appropriate as Bob Dylan is my beloved favorite artist. But even if that exhibit has passed before you get the chance to visit, they consistently feature fascinating new installments on a regular basis. Oh and while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Shania Twain section.
1611 Roy Acuff Place
I admit, I was a little skeptical of the Studio B tour.I thought it might be corny to simply walk through the place where some very old songs had been recorded; I wasn’t sure I would feel anything by just stepping into the same building. Boy was I wrong. I love it when I’m wrong in coldness, and something is warm and powerful and emotionally resonate and touches me deeply. That is exactly what the Studio B tour did, partially because the tour guides give so much of a fuck about this tour. There was no phoning it in, there was no scripted, tossed off slew of facts–this was a person who cared as much about the history and space and legacy of Studio B as they would their own child. Sure, the place has housed legends like Elvis, Dolly Parton and The Everly Brothers, but the tour guides who preserve and tell their stories are the real MVPs. I would take this tour on a weekly basis if I lived in Nashville because, aside from the exceptional narrators, walking into that old, unobtrusive shed really did feel like walking onto holy ground. *Cues up the Taylor Swift song*
119 3rd Avenue South
The Johnny Cash Museum is a fairly new addition to Nashville’s thriving local music history community–it’s only been open since 2013. But in the past three years it has earned accolades from plenty of Cash’s family members–including his brother Tommy and sister Carlene, who happened to be on hand the day we visited the small museum–and serves as a haven for Cash fans the world over. The museum may be small, but it’s packed to the gills with memorabilia and detailed plaques that outline Johnny’s entire story, from his childhood growing up in Arkansas, to his time in the Air Force, addiction and first marriage, early years at Sun Records, redemption and second marriage to June Carter, and on through his peak stardom and subsequent death. The museum is located in a building that is set up as a house, not your traditional museum structure, and perhaps that’s part of what makes it feel so inviting, so personal. The final room plays Johnny Cash’s rendition of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt” on loop, so be careful not to spend too much time in that room lest you find yourself breaking down. Or, perhaps, be careful not to avoid the breakdown if that’s what you need. This city has a way of reaching you with the music you need to hear right when you need it most.
128 2nd Avenue North
Even as someone who is obsessed with country music history, I didn’t know much about George Jones’ tragic, unlucky and ultimately redemptive life until visiting this museum in Nashville that’s dedicated to him. “I want everybody that knows and loves music to know about this guy and how much he loved it,” his wife Nancy Jones, wrote about her decision to open the museum honoring her late husband. Along with the museum on the second floor, the entertainment complex hosts a whole restaurant/event space and a rooftop bar. But hey, there’s plenty of restaurants in Nashville, so if you go, you should focus on learning about the incredible life of this legendary singer who refused to give up, even after an abusive childhood, even after a lifelong struggle with alcoholism, even after gaining and losing his fortune several times. The reason he survived all that could very well be attributed to the woman who built this museum to honor him–but I’ll let you discover that for yourself. Pick up a bottle of George Jones White Lightning brand moonshine, the biggest and best middle finger to the specter of alcoholism I’ve ever let capitalism rope me into enjoying.
623 7th Avenue South
If you weren’t aware that Jack White is a fixture in Nashville, the Third Man Record store will drive that home. As much as the internet may love to poke fun at the former White Stripes frontman, current Dead Weather member and prolific solo artist in his own right, the way he’s invested in his local musical community is pretty spectacular. Along with selling, y’know, records, the Third Man storefront in Nashville provides a “novelties lounge–featuring the Third Man Record Booth–label offices and distribution center, photo studio, and the world’s only live venue with direct-to-acetate recording capabilities. That’s pretty fucking cool. But, because of all these special facilities they are very particular about parking:
I recommend Uber-ing it. It’s very cheap to do so in Nashville–Brooklynites will be shocked.
Where To Hear Music
Best In Category: The Ryman Auditorium
116 5th Avenue North
Listen, there’s a reason this venue is called “The Mother Church of Country Music.” The Ryman Auditorium has been through hell and back–something I didn’t even know until watching the dramatic, playful and highly informative video about the building’s history–and perhaps that’s what makes it feel so heavenly inside. Although much of the original stage has been necessarily replaced since the building was first erected in 1901, a small section in the very front has been preserved, so visitors can go stand on the sacred ground:
The Ryman was originally constructed to be a church, the Union Gospel Tabernacle to be exact, and that air of spirituality hangs heavy in the air and amid the numerous pews. As the fifth, but one of the most famous, former homes of the Grande Ole Opry, the Ryman has seen plenty of history pass through its doors, and continues to make history in its current capacity as one of Nashville’s most esteemed and iconic music venues.
Yes, it’s in the middle of touristy downtown Nashville stretch of honky tonks. Yes, it’s packed to the gills with frat bros and drunk teens who probably snuck in on fake IDs, and washed up locals who simply have nowhere else to be. Yes, you need to go there. Because all of these people are what make Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge into the wild, dirty, and wonderful trash heaven that it is. And also, the beer is cheap! The whole premise of a honky tonk is that amateur/aspiring musicians will play whatever country hits you give them cash to perform, and thy will do so pretty much all night. There’s bands playing on all four (Five? Idk, I was drunk) floors, and they’re all good enough to fiddle around and figure out the chords to deliver a worthy rendition of any country song your out-of-town ass might want to hear. This is the heart of what makes Nashville wonderful–old country roots meeting new country hits, locals meeting transplants, visitors paying budding new musicians to deliver songs that soundtracked their childhood. Go to Tootsie’s, take a shot, and belt out “This Kiss” like you’re twelve years old again. It will be one of your favorite Nashville moments, fancy Brooklyn apartment be damned.
4104 Hillsboro Pike
You’re kidding yourself if you go to Nashville and don’t try to make it out to Bluebird Cafe for one of their incredible singer/songwriter rounds. Most of us probably got introduced to the legendary haven by the television show Nashville, but hey, whatever gateway drug it takes to get you to experience your own Behind The Music scenario when it comes to country hits is fine by me. Going to the Bluebird Cafe is the equivalent of watching pro athletes go on Sports Center and explain all their king-making plays, then reenact them. (If a sports metaphor doesn’t get you there, I don’t know what will.) This place tends to completely sell out and then some, so try to plan ahead or show up early.
2208 Elliston Place
Contrary to popular belief, there is plenty of other music in Nashville aside from country music. Jack White’s Third Man Records is proof enough of that, but for those who want to catch something grittier or more akin to rock while down south, Exit/In is the place to do it. Open since 1971, the downtown space became a gathering place for all those music city locals and travelers who wanted to escape the country scene that dominates their city. This venue has seen enough icons and stars grace its stage to become considered iconic in its own right, so carve out some time in your schedule to go be a part of this venue’s history.
Remember how I said Tootsies was the epitome of touristy, trashy and still lovely honky tonk scene in Nashville? Well Robert’s is the legitimate locals-love-it opposite end of that spectrum. Even if it’s just down the street, they are worlds apart. And that’s perfectly fine! The world thrives on spectrums. If you happen to be with someone who is not of drinking age, you can still bring them through Robert’s before 6 PM to see the shelves full of boots and get a mean fried bologna sandwich. (The sandwich won’t be mean to your kids, that’s just a colloquialism.) There’s always live music playing, but from 6 PM on the place turns into a rowdy celebration of the wonderful power of country nightlife. No matter what time you go, make sure to show up on Friday or Saturday night at least for a few minutes to catch the house band, Brazilbilly, who are described as “traditional country music with a Latin flair.” I’ll leave you with that–the rest you have to experience for yourself.
1006 Forrest Avenue
East Nashville has been a thing since before you read about it in a trend piece, and there’s no better example of that than The 5 Spot, a venue out that way that’s been open long before the neighborhood got hip. If you ask around, any proud Nashville local will tell you that The 5 Spot’s weekly Keep On Movin dance party was picked by GQ Magazine as “The Most Stylish Dance Party in the World.” That’s quite an honor to feel qualified to bestow! If you’re not much of a dancer (I’m not), skip the Monday night party for $2 Tuesday, where pints of beer and hot dogs are both, you guessed it, $2.
1 Symphony Place
Again, for those who are convinced that Nashville’s music legacy is confined solely to country and twang-centirc music, it’s time to think again. The city is home to one of the finest orchestras the world over–and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which houses them, is one of the most elegant music venues I’ve ever been in. And I’ve been to Carnegie Hall! Jokes aside, since 2003 this beautiful venue has routinely hosted some of the most prestigious and esteemed jazz, classical and world music performers around the world. They also fund an incredible scholarship program called Accelerando that is dedicated to helping underprivileged and underrepresented minorities pursue educational opportunities in music from middle school on. While most out-of-towners will struggle a bit with the building’s namesake, any South Brooklyn resident is already familiar with the pronunciation due to our own beloved G train stop that shares the name. Magical.
2804 Opryland Drive
Aside from being the longest running live radio program in the world, the Grand Ole Opry is also tipped as the show that “made country music famous,” which means a lot of us owe a debt of gratitude to this thing. As the Opry outgrew all of its previous venues–including The Ryman–the need for an enormous, state-of-the-art facility on the outskirts of town became necessary. That’s where the Opry now takes place, and has since 1974, which means even the newest venue for the show has close to 50 years of history under its belt. If you get a chance, I highly recommend taking a backstage tour of the place.
If not, grab an enormous beer and some popcorn, and settle in to watch some local bluegrass musicians share a stage with current country legends, all with still-spoken ads sprinkled intermittently throughout to remind you that this is still a live radio show, 90 years later. It’s the things that never change that remind us why our legacy is important. Did I think it would be an old-timey radio ad that made me realize this? No! But it was. God Bless the Opry.
Where To Shop
Best in Category: Fond Object Record Store
1313 Mcgavock Pike
If you want to read much more about the fashion scene in Nashville you can read the deep-dive I wrote for Racked on emerging designers and vintage storefronts. If you don’t have the time for that, then skip the bullshit and head straight to Fond Object Records in East Nashville. True to the name, the place is also a record store–and even hosted a Record Store Day party with a few Paradise of Bachelors bands on the bill (including the OG gay country icon Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country) when I was visiting–but the vintage portion of the store is expertly curated by both Poni Silver (who designs as Black by Maria Silver), and Leslie Stephens (who designs as Ola Mai). Their curation makes this East Nashville outpost the first and finest vintage clothing visit in the city.
4604 Gallatin Pike
Originally, Nikki Lane‘s High Class Hillbilly was the reason I wanted to learn and write about the fashion scene in Nashville. Her shop ended up being one of my favorite things in the whole city, expertly curated even though she’s in the middle of a flourishing country music career herself and was off recording her new album during my visit to the south. One of the best things about High Class Hillbilly is it also has an excellent mens section, which ladies stay with me, is the best place to get a big oversized flannel for yourself. Copped two and went back home to Brooklyn to reap the compliments like wheat. Thanks Nikki!
601 Merritt Avenue
While I thought about putting the two distilleries I visited in the “Where To Drink” section, I realized that no matter how great the liquor coming out of these places is, neither of them are really the ideal Nashville spot to knock back a few. Especially if you’re only in town for a few days, there are too many incredible local bars to visit! But, you should still roll through the distillery to sample and purchase some of Grandpa’s medicine, or you know, some artisanal gin. Corsair is known for being inventive and a bit experimental when it comes to distilling, taking risks that not a lot of other more traditional places are willing to take. So when you go there to shop, I dare you to buy the most off-the-wall liquor available, perhaps Quinoa Whiskey? Which, by the way, is award-winning. Get some for your mom while you’re at it.
1008 Forrest Avenue
Hip Zipper is the oldest vintage store in Nashville, a feat in of itself considering how long this city and its wonderful Rhinestone Cowboy aesthetic have been around. (Hint: A long fucking time.) Owner Trisha Brantley opened the store back in 1999 and worked as a waitress through a lot of those years just to keep the shop open as a passion project. Pro-tip: Passion Projects rule. Go check hers out if you’re in that area during your stay. I got a vintage gold locket when I stopped by, and I love it so much that I wear it every day and will probably lose it soon. When I do, guess it will be time for another trip down to Nashville.
521 Gallatin Avenue
Founded by Kimberly Parker in 2013, Sisters of Nature has quickly become one of East Nashville’s trendiest boutiques. Parker curates the designers and goods she features inside the storefront, and has recently branched off into designing and creating her own Sisters of Nature line. While most stores in the area sell vintage or second-hand clothing, Sisters of Nature focuses exclusively on brand new items, mostly from local and regional designers and stocking all American-made and fair trade goods, an ethical commitment that makes the shop stand out in a crowded market and lending an air of the upscale to East Nashville.
1101 Holly Street
One of the most remarkable things about Fanny’s House Of Music is that it’s a business entirely run by women. Featuring a wide selection of instruments and repairs, along with music-related tools of the trade, it is also a music school that provides lessons, and includes a selection of vintage clothing curated by Star Vintage and Mom and Pop Culture Shop. You can buy a used instrument there, pick up a new button down blouse and get a guitar lesson all in one stop. Now that’s southern hospitality.
Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
1414 Clinton Street
There’s a lot of family history woven into Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, and learning their story is a great reason to stop by. The tour I took was narrated by one of the family members, who told us tales of his ancestor Charles Nelson’s immigration from Germany to America that included sowing all his gold into a coat, sinking to the bottom of the ocean when the boat shipwrecked, and how that loss motivated his penniless teenage son to start a liquor business. Then, that business was shuttered during the distillery, only to be rediscovered by a subsequent generation on a random visit to Greenbrier, Tennessee. Now, those two brothers Charlie and Andy are waiting to produce their first batch of Green Brier whiskey, biding their time while their tribute to the family legacy ages. Go for the heartwarming, weird as hell family history, stay to taste and buy the Belle Meade bourbon they’ve got on hand in the meantime.
918 Main Street
Chic colorblock clothing? Check. Designer sandals? Check. Candles that ring in above the $50 mark? Check! In case you miss Brooklyn while you’re down south, Two Sons has pretty much everything you’d find in any slick boutique in Brooklyn–and that’s a compliment. Two couples, David Perry and Leigh Watson and Aubrey McCoy and James Kicinski-McCoy, who each had two sons, decided to found this minimal, upscale boutique together, drawing the name from their own similar family structures. There is absolutely nothing kitsch or throwback about the men and women’s clothing and home goods that the shop features, proving that sometimes all modern everything just works.
2908 12th Avenue South
Holly Williams is country music royalty, but even if she wasn’t, her store, White’s Mercantile, would still be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. She curates the inventory for the entire store, and you can almost feel her love of all things old-fashioned and southern among the items. Which isn’t to say that the knicknacks, furniture, and accessories don’t feel fresh–they do. But they are also imbued with some deeper patina of the southern spirit, some things just run in the blood, and Williams has too much history coursing through hers to not be drawn to things that typify this region of America. For those who are inspired by the Mercantile store, Williams also runs a clothing store called H. Audrey. Oh, and if you haven’t heard her 2013 record The Highway then you are missing out on one of the greatest modern country records I’ve ever heard.
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